Let’s be honest, nursing is not for everyone. It can be a demanding career physically, cognitively, and emotionally. Different nursing specialties will have different demands. For anyone considering a rewarding, but challenging, career in nursing consider the following questions to see if this is a good career match for you.
Can you work well in a team?
Nursing often involves working within a multi-disciplinary team compiled of various members. This may include physicians, administrative support, occupational therapists, dieticians, physiotherapists, and, of course, the patient and their family, to name a few. Being a good listener, providing your own input, and respecting each other’s roles can help optimize patient care.
Can you adapt to changing environments?
Ask yourself if you can be adaptable to changing needs and degrees of workload in a short period of time. It only takes one emergency or an abrupt change in a patient’s condition to have a steady day turn into chaos. Even in a community setting, if an outbreak occurs or flu season strikes the necessity to work harder, faster, and longer can be a reality.
Nurses are also expected to attend conventions and conferences where they learn about new technologies and treatments that affect all areas of the nursing profession. Sometimes these conferences are paid for by a nurse’s employer.
Do you enjoy the sciences?
Certainly nursing knowledge includes learning biology to understand how the body works. However, also be prepared to embrace chemistry and math. For example, consider pharmaceuticals and what knowledge is required to understand how medications work within the body, or how calcium ions affect the heart rate. Or, consider how the doctor may be prescribing the medication but it is important for nurses to double check dosages based on age and weight. This is not to discourage people who do not excel in the hard sciences from a career in nursing, but is a consideration to be prepared to work and study hard.
Do you enjoy psychology and sociology?
How people think, interact, portray emotions, and behave in society and with others can have a huge impact on their health. Having an interest in human behavior rather than preferring, for example, computer programming can distinguish personalities that may be appropriate for nursing.
Can you advocate for others?
Identifying the needs of people when they are in the vulnerable position of being a patient and having the confidence to speak up to advocate for those patients is a valuable trait in a nurse. It may be too easy at times to just perform the basic job requirements and go home. However, to make a difference in people’s lives and to achieve greater job satisfaction, advocacy can be a powerful tool.
Are you a strong communicator?
Strong written and verbal skills are required in nursing in order communicate with patients and with your colleagues. Communicating and charting accurate assessment findings for the health care team as well as obtaining important information from patients requires confidence and skill as a communicator. Even if a language barrier exists, it is necessary to value the importance of communication. For example, this may be done by arranging a translator or trusted family member.
Do you have a strong work ethic?
This is an important question to ask yourself. Valuing confidentiality, equality of care, and hard work, are all examples of what it takes to be a successful nurse.
Are you sensitive to cultural and socioeconomic differences?
Patients come from all back grounds and all walks of life. It is important to know your own bias and prejudice towards other people who may be different from yourself. All patients deserve your best care regardless of differences. A useful guiding principle is to treat all patients the way you would want your loved ones treated.
Do you enjoy continuing education?
Health care is not a stagnant field. Research is continuous and keeping up to date with information, skills, and professional development takes commitment. Continued education can be in the form of on-line courses, weekend workshops, or returning to school to do another degree or masters level program. It can even be reading up on topics as you experience gaps in your knowledge. Health care becomes a life-long learning process.
Are you compassionate by nature?
Compassion is a difficult trait to learn. Ask yourself, do I genuinely enjoy helping others or would I only do it for the money? It is difficult to perform some of the bedside nursing skills for patients with grace and composure unless you truly want to help. For example, assisting a patient maintain their self respect after being incontinent of stool from a side effect of a chemotherapy medication takes genuine compassion.
A career in nursing can provide a lifetime of exciting options